Whistling Past The Graveyard

*I accidentally put this post in Mad Genius Club last night.  That’s how exhausted I was.  We have a full day of work away from this house.  But then we should be more or less done.  I’m not removing the post at MGC because it has comments, but I’m putting it beneath Cedar’s.*

You know, it will never cease to amaze me how people — and by people, I mean most people, right, left or center — continue to swallow “surveys” and “statistics” that say what is plainly not the truth, and then entire business plans, governmental courses, elections, are decided on the basis of what amounts to the media following a pre-scripted narrative that makes them happy.

I’ve in the past accused various people of drinking their own ink.  On the subject of ebooks versus paper books, man oh man, I just hope that ink isn’t poisonous, because good heavens, they’re slurping it by the bucket-full.

Remember some weeks (months?  My life has been such a whirlwind that some things have gone a bit fuzzy around the edges) ago, when we heard that due to a report that ebook sales were down, the publishers were convinced that paper books were making a comeback and were building more warehouses to house all those books they’d need to distribute to–  Who the heck knows?

The report was obviously twaddle — I’m linking this and this, and yet this and this because I’m not covering again ground covered by my colleagues at Mad Genius Club — because it doesn’t measure ALL ebooks, only the ebooks put out by traditional publishing.  Which has seen its ebook sales fall more than its paper book sales.  And which is therefore basing its entire economic future on the certainty people really prefer buggy whips paper books, not those newfangled automobiles and planes ebooks. Because ebooks fell faster.

Of course ebooks from traditional publishers are a) unreasonably priced  (No, really. There is a book I’m dying to get.  It’s $17 for ebook.  It’s $32 for the hardcover.  You know, I have KULL subscription and the indie books aren’t as good as this particular book should be, but it takes a lot of not as good at 9.99 a month to compare to those prices.)  b) often stupidly formatted/edited c) even more often on themes/by authors I have no interest in.  (Other than Baen, I currently read two other authors.  Period.  Oh, and one in mystery.)

Or to put it another way, traditional publishers went to war with Amazon to be allowed to price their books astronomically high.  Amazon let them.  They priced books at same price as hardcover or a little under (a very little.)  E-book sales fell, compared to what they were when books were tops 9.99.  Um….

Let me see if I can explain this as I would a child: your little friends love and adore your cupcakes.  So you decide to set up shop and make a batch in your easy-bake oven, and sell them for ten cents a piece.  Since your friends’ on average have an allowance of a dollar a week, you sell out of the whole batch in hours.  So you think “Hey, I can make more.”  You set the price at a dollar per cupcake. No one buys them.  Your conclusion is “My friends no longer like cupcakes and prefer to eat vegetable sticks.”

Would anyone but a two year old buy that narrative?  Well, according to publishers this is a perfectly sane thing to say.  I mean, if people won’t buy your overpriced ebooks, it must mean they are going back to paper.  Happy days are here again.  Let’s build warehouses for all those books we’ll be shipping out to the no-longer existent big-chain bookstores!  We’ll be able to control what books make it by our push again!  We’re rich, rich, I tell you.

But it’s not just publishers.  A friend sent me this article, and I scratched my head and frowned at it and said, in my deep thinking way, “Wut?”  This is sort of like if you told your mom your friends’ refusal to buy your $1 a piece cupcakes was because they liked celery more and she said “Sounds legit.  For your birthday party we’ll have ONLY celery.”

Print is not dead: Amazon goes brick-and-mortar as e-books falter

You see that forehead-shaped dent on my desk?  That’s what happens when I read obviously crazy stuff.  Remember how we thought the publishers were spinning this story but even they weren’t stupid enough to believe it?  Oh, geez guys, I wish we would stop being wrong about how crazy-and-stupid people with supposed educations and world experience are.

First of all, there is that headline.  Ebooks falter?  Poppycock.  Publishers just can’t sell cupcakes at $1 a piece. Among those of us who are also indie it’s not a secret that the lower you price your book, the more you sell.  Yes, there is a trade off and below 99c people suspect it of being cr*p, but at around 2.99 you’ll sell a lot more than at 6.99.  (Yes, I will lower Witchfinder when Witch’s Daughter comes out, which it will when I finish this … well, I’ll explain later.)   And frankly, I’ll bite the bullet and spend 6.99 for a book by a known author I know I love.  BUT no power on Earth can convince me to spend $15 for an ebook, even if I like your work. H*ll, even if I LOVE your work. (Even with Pratchett, I’d usually buy the audiobook instead of the ebook, because I have a subscription and it’s more reasonable.)

Does this mean I’m going back to buying paper books?  Oh, h*ll no.  Not after this move, and with another move looming in a couple of months.  And not anyway.  We read too much for our floor joists.

So what happens to those overpriced books?  I find other authors I like to read.  I mean, I might make an exception for my favorite two or three, but for most books?  Bah.  Double bah. I just find something else to read.  There was this medieval mystery series that was pretty good.  Not amazing, but pretty good.  I bought the first two at $2.99.  And then got ready to buy the third, and hello $12.  No.  I found another — indie — mystery to read.  Now (I’m not being coy) I can remember neither book name nor author name.

So, ebooks falter my sore foot.  “Overpriced ebooks don’t sell, but that doesn’t help paper books” as far as I can tell is the accurate headline.

And then there’s the crazy part of “Amazon goes brick and mortar.”  Yep, ladies, gents, cats and small dragons.  Amazon opened ONE brick and mortar bookstore.  ONE.  This is hardly “going brick and mortar” and more “making an experiment with brick and mortar.”  I mean, if Amazon were opening ten such stores it still wouldn’t be going brick and mortar, it would just be diversifying.  And why shouldn’t it?  Borders is gone.  Barnes and Noble has become Barnes and Toys.  There would seem to be a niche there for a bookstore, that, you know, sells books, and offers a way for bookish people to gather.  Note, that the store is said to be, mostly, for “showcasing Amazon products.”  But I could see a model where they have what indie stores used to have: knowledgeable sales personnel who actually read and handsell books, and perhaps a discount for books downloaded when on the premises, all the while selling the various kindles, as loss-leaders to get you addicted to ebook crack.

Oh, sure, and paper books too.  I mean, yeah, sure, paper isn’t going totally away.  For instance, next week I’m buying three of those to give as a gift. And I do still buy used books, if they’re $1 or $2 and they are “disposable” “popcorn” books.  I buy them, then trade them in at two for one, until eventually I have zero.  But the rest of the time?  The rest of the time I buy ebooks.

Now Amazon won’t be selling used books (I don’t think.  They might.  They sell them on line.) but I can see them having a machine that will print any of the create space books in each store. That and knowledgeable staff might make all the difference.  I still think it won’t ever be the main part of Amazon business, much less “goes brick and mortar.”  (Though I’ll admit that because investors tend to believe these cooked reports and Amazon is savvy, this might just be a ploy to quiet investors’ fears. In which case we’ll see maybe ten Amazon stores, and no more throughout the country.)

Now is this true of most people?  I don’t know.  Anymore when I’m out in public, everyone is reading on their phone.  Even on planes, if you see someone reading a paperbook they’re almost always from abroad. My friends who also epublish haven’t seen any big drops in income.  (Not like the dead summer of two years ago.)  Bookshelves are now ridiculously cheap (this is actually a good indicator.  I knew dvds were going out, when we started seeing dvd storage cabinets being given away on craigslit or its equivalent.) And used bookstores are feeling the pinch.  I keep seeing campaigns to “save x or y” bookstore.  Oh, yeah, also most of us who sell our accumulated bookery (totally a word) on Amazon have given up because the movement there is ridiculously slow anymore.  It didn’t use to be like that.

And yet, the New York Post, not a progressive newspaper, has fallen for this story and run with it even though two minutes thought would show it to be insane.

I remember Heinlein once said that no event he’d lived through and seen reported in the Times had been reported with any degree of accuracy.  From those events I lived through, I can tell you I agree with him.  And yet, newspapermen who are notoriously bad at analyzing numbers, will run with these narratives pushed at them from above.  And the man on the street (and investor on the street) will buy it because it’s everywhere.

So… so we come back to, remember when you thought publishers were just saying they were building warehouses and that print was coming back?  That this was just spin to make themselves sound better?

It would appear you were wrong.  They really believe this.  They feed the story to the media, then read it back and think it’s validated.

Drinking your own ink wrecks the brain.

Just before Halloween my husband was talking about kids’ costumes (our favorite was when older boy was a dragon and younger boy a knight, with a plastic-sword-of-smiting brother.  Good thing I padded the dragon head) and asked what I’d worn as a little girl.  I pointed out we didn’t dress up for Halloween in Portugal and he asked what we did.  So I started, “On Halloween night, you go to the cemetery–” and he said “Stop it.  No story that starts like that ends well unless you’re Buffy.”

But scary as that beginning might be, it’s not nearly as scary as “Publishers raised their prices which made THEIR ebooks sell less, so they thought paper books were coming back and invested big in those.”

I guess they’re just whistling past the graveyard.

270 responses to “Whistling Past The Graveyard

  1. Sarah. I am one of those troglodytes who loves physical, hard- (and soft-) cover ACTUAL books and haven’t been able to bring myself to switch to ebooks. I bought soft-cover copies of all three of your “Darkship” series for example and am about half-way through “A Few Good Men”. (For those reading this, it’s NOTHING like the movie.) I enjoyed the first two very much, and am enjoying the final book as much. Thanks, by the way.

    • It’s not the final book. The hiatus was due to health reasons. There will be 12 more.
      I UNDERSTAND this, and honestly I thought I’d be like that, but then I got a kindle paperwhite and it’s amazing how much it mimics the “book experience” for me. So…

      • Twelve more? I believe a Futurama quote is in order:

        • Five more in the Earth Revolution (one delivered.) The DST line has at least 7 more, but could have more.

          • I haven’t seen the book up on Amazon or Baen. Has it been published yet, or is it still in process?

            • I think it’s scheduled for May next year. It’s up to you to ask for earcs, of course.

              • Yep, May release per the Baen publishing schedule.
                Quite a good read if I do say so. If you ever wanted to experience the French Revolution at ground level only high tech this would be your cup of tea. It was such a good read that I barely flinched at a few small minor spelling, punctuation, and grammar infractions. Which of course Toni won’t let out the door until corrected.
                With a May date the complete e-book will be out April 16, first half in webscriptions mid February, so I’d recommend those interested start whining about an eARC the first of the year.

          • Sigh. Just don’t go all GRRM on us and forget to include plots in the later series entries.

            • Even his world building and mythology book doesn’t have plot. I mean, I wasn’t expecting the Silmarillion, but once you get past the Dance of Dragons . . .

              • You know, when I was reading Wheel of Time back in the day, I eventually became tired of it around chapter 600,000. I always noticed the various icons at the top of the chapter headings, and imagined that the author was just letting a random number generator or a tarot deck generate where the plot was heading next, and just wrote to that. It was the only way I could conceive of the sheer … output.

                • The Other Sean

                  From what I’ve heard, the Wheel of Time series was responsible for too much of Tor’s annual revenue for them to allow Robert Jordan to actually tie things up.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Plus IIRC his wife & editor had to tell Tom Doherty to “not make too many comments” as Robert would take such comments as instructions to put more stuff into the books.

                • Random episodic stories have a long history in fantasy and SF. Of course, the tradition is that you tie off each story before the next episode.

      • I’m in line for the next one.

      • I find that while I don’t mind reading ebooks, I don’t like trying to find a book in the list (however, I’m reading mine on my computer. I don’t know if the interface is better on the Kindle Readers these days), though, because the interface isn’t as good for me as being able to go through the stacks of books that are or aren’t on the bookshelves.

        Either way, I definitely stick with a format once I have started a series in that format. I’ve got Larry’s Monster Hunter books in ebook, but since I picked up Darkship Thieves when I happened to see it in a bookstore, I have bought those in paper. But all of your other works I have bought are ebooks.

        • Reality Observer

          I tend to do that, too. Too much bother trying to figure out whether the next one is “E” or “P.” And I have wasted too much time looking for “P” on my book piles.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            One thing I like about my Android Tablet is that it has a “File Manager” app.

            I store my ebooks by author as well as renaming them to include the series name and number.

            Thus in my Sarah Holt folder, I have “Shifter 01 – name”, “Shifter 02 – name”, etc.

            Clicking on the ebook will load it to my ebook-reader software. [Smile]

            Note, I have also learned how to “show” the series name & number in the ebook-reader display of books.

            Sigil is a very nice *free* ebook editing program for ePubs. [Smile]

            • When I first subscribed to Audible their “Audible Manager” allowed me to not only sort books by category and author but even down to series folders. Somewhere along the line that capability has disappeared, a great loss.

              With most people accustomed to computer filing systems, the ability to arrange my electronic (digital or audio) books as Fiction/Authors A-H/Hoyt, Sarah/Shifters/Title seems an essential convenience. Much better than having them in one bid muddle or scrolling through multiple shelves to reach the one desired.

            • wanderingmuses

              This is very similar to the system we use to organize audio books. It really works well.

      • William O. B'Livion

        Oh, planning on doing a Robert Jordan?

    • I love paper books, I love bookstores. I love ebooks. So I swing both ways.

      • I’ll go along with that. But when I wanted to read a bunch of stuff from particular authors, two instances: Aubrey Maturin series and Rex Stout, they were either hard to find, expensive or not available. Within seconds I could get one in e-book. And far tidier; my sitting chair side table is straining under the weight and a point of contention.

        Two books seem to stay on the table, both by Norman Doidge. The Brain’s Way of Healing, and The Brain that Changes Itself. Almost science fiction but not fiction anymore. Worth reading.

        • It would be nice if I had the ability to edit e-book titles (Calibre allows this, so thanks) to indicate which entry in a series a title is, as it can be hard to keep titles straight. For example. Bujold’s Brothers In Arms and Mirror Dance seem as if they should be in the opposite order, Mirror introducing mark while Brothers addresses their joint operations as Dendarii leaders.

          When an author callously introduces new books into the middle of a series (yes, Cornwell, I’m looking Sharpely at you) it would be convenient to be able to easily relabel books following the new #8.

          Mild quibbles, no doubt — but any barrier to entry, no matter how flimsy, is one more layer of needless impedimentia.

          • One of the benefits to doing the main work for handling e-books on a computer, then transferring to the reader du jour: Explorer makes it easy to rename files, like the system that Drak mentions above.

            That, and reading on a 7″ screen is an exercise in masochism, as far as I’m concerned. I only do it because I get bored to tears at work during slow periods otherwise.

          • That brings up something that makes me want to strangle the people at publishing houses: Putting out SOME works in a series with the number it is in the series, and then NOT doing so for others in the same series.

            Then, one of the biggest complaints I have about the displays of information about a book on Amazon is that they only show the most recent pub date, not the original, so if a title gets updated (particularly common with self-pubs who don’t have to go through eleventy layers of process to do the update), it will show a later pub date than the later works in the series.

    • It is one thing to have … peculiar tastes and another to recognize them as being peculiar. I prefer CDs and DVDs and books on Dead Trees — but I do not fool myself into thinking my preferences are normal. I also like my food so H. O. T. that Thai restaurant staff back away from me slowly, but I do not fool myself that any restaurant which routinely served all its entrees as hot as I like wouldn’t close within a month.

      With a culture increasingly interfacing the world, moving frequently and rents in major cities absurdly high people are idiots to invest in costly, inefficient space-demanding books. Clinging to expectations of consumer preference is as sane as opening a new factory for manufacture of brass pocket watches.

  2. My late-hubby used to quote Mark Twain “Lies, damn lies, and statistics.” 😉

    At this time I only by paperbacks for gifts and cookbooks. I don’t like to have my ebook in the kitchen where I can spill all types of gook on it.

  3. The think I find hilarious about the whole Amazon bookstore thing is the news reports are treating it exactly as if it were another Barnes & Noble opening. It can’t possibly be a “oh Amazon is joining us, hooray” move. I will be ASTONISHED if that store even makes back its rent in the first three years, never mind employee salary and benefits. That is some of the priciest real estate in Seattle, and the store is *nice*. (I drove past it on my way to the Correia reading the day it opened. Could not find parking anywhere.) To give you an idea, it is right across from a Tiffany’s store. This is a *very* upscale mall.

    Bezos, like a good Cylon, has a plan. I’m not entirely sure what it is yet but I would bet a year’s supply of chocolate it isn’t to make money from that particular store. Not for a long while

    • yep. I think it’s dual — investors got nervous because of all the news reports, and this appeases them — eyewash AND promotion.

      • I wonder if it’s also to demonstrate how to run a successful bookstore by going back to the basics: sell books.

        • Nah, it’ll never work. You gotta load the front half of the store with toys-n-stuff, and hide the books so people aren’t intimidated. After all, it works so well for [staggering chain of stores]!
          /sarc (not that it’s really needed, but . . .)

      • I doubt this would appease investors, and Amazon has never cared much about that anyway. Like I said, anybody in the Seattle area knows the balance sheets don’t match on this store, never mind savvy investors.

        However, there are two interesting things about the location. Everybody knows Seattleites love their coffee, but we *also* love reading. Plus, as my much more business-savvy sister pointed out, the University Village location is very unique. It is pretty much the only mall a) inside the city limits AND b) not frequented by tourists. Meaning the customer base is stable and local, and thus much more valuable for data analysis. Not that Amazon ever does that….

        • It being in Seattle is one reason I’ll probably avoid going to it. If it was in Bellevue, Redmond, or Kirkland, I would be willing to drive that far north. But Seattle…… I remember Seattle when it was a blue collar town, and a trip to Seattle {from Pacific, right on the King/ Pierce county line} wasn’t all that terrible. Today, driving any further north into Seattle than Georgetown is out. Unless it’s a really big deal for someone I care about.

      • Laura Montgomery

        The description of the store, with all the customer favorites and review information, makes it sound like an Amazon page. It sounds more like an ad for the site than a move to the physical world.

        I just got a strange catalog in the mail that shows nice stuff, prices, but no sizes. It seems designed to send the user to the website, without any pretense of offering to sell you the stuff by mail.

    • I haven’t been to Seattle in a while, but isn’t that store in the place where nothing has ever lasted more than a few years? That tenants change constantly?

      • It’s an odd location but very busy. The businesses that went in there previously never managed the high value/high throughput required by the cost of the location.

    • Does raise an interesting question though.
      With a physical presence in Washington state will Amazon be required to collect state sales tax on all sales or just book sales?

      • It already had a physical presence in WA–I think they count warehouses as presence. I’ve been paying tax on my “fulfilled by Amazon” purchases for a while now 😦

        • Indeed. They opened a warehouse in Virginia, and up popped the state sales tax.

          • Same thing in North Carolina — my suspicion is that they decided it was better (cheaper financially and ethically) to open warehouses than fight tax-greedy states and competition resistant brick’n’mortars.

            I wonder how far we are from an anti-monopoly action against Amazon? Probably less than four years if we elect Bernie, but HRC would likely wait for the second term. I would like to say no Republican currently running would be so dumb, but …

        • Ditto TX. I was also less than pleased to get hit with state sales tax on a new ‘puter (curse you, Apple stores). Although I don’t have to pay county and city, so I shouldn’t gripe.

          • In theory, at least, you’re already required to pay “use tax” (sales tax by any other name) to your state on any purchases you make from out-of-state. Since this is a custom more honored in the breach, in practice nobody pays the “use tax” unless the state has forced the merchant to collect the sales tax.

            “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they’re different.”

    • I keep wondering if they did this to throw some money away– Maybe have a venue for their big authors… to sign books. Because yes, that is a very expensive venue (I know some of the area because I visit family there).

    • I think Bezos ALWAYS has a plan.

    • Reality Observer

      Hm. From what I have read, it is also all “best sellers,” has far fewer books than the floor space would suggest (apparently because there is no spine shelving), and now you tell me it’s in a very high rent district.

      Is the marketing ploy perhaps for those who absolutely must have “the” current book of the intelligentsia on their coffee table that night when they entertain? Or leaf through enough of it in the store that they don’t look like a deer in the headlights when the conversation turns to it?

      • “best sellers” on *Amazon*, not the approved NYT and bien pensant best sellers. In other words, a store for real people. It’s like opening a greasy spoon diner in the middle of a gated community. Beelzebezos, as he is affectionately referred to at The Passive Voice, is probably giggling himself to sleep at night. I expect many butt-hurt articles from the usual suspects, dialing the Amazon Derangement Syndrome dials to 11 and predicting doom, destruction, rains of snails (like we would notice here) and cats and dogs living together. Mass hysteria!

        Meanwhile, the Ladies Who Lunch might pop in between hot yoga and diamond shopping, and get exposed to books they never knew existed. You know, diversity, broadening of minds, getting to knooooowww youuuuu…

        no, I haven’t been drinking. At all. Got to fix that.

        • I like that scenario.

        • In a link to a lecture about “The Myth of the Robber Barrons” left here a few days ago in one of the other comment sections, one of the “dirty tricks” Vanderbilt did was to instruct his steamboat captains to go fast for 100 miles, and then let his (subsidized) competitor pass them, and let that competitor be convinced that Vanderbilt’s boat was still going that fast…thereby pushing his competitor’s fuel costs up.

          One of the things that made this possible was the fact that his competitor decided to advertise “Come with us if you value your time!”, because Vanderbilt had noticed early on that going fast pushed up fuel costs.

          I wonder if Bezos is doing something similar with Amazon’s brick-and-mortar store: convincing his competitors that there’s money in brick-and-mortar and books, so that the old school competitors that they need to “go faster” in the direction they are going…and thereby burn through what money they have that much faster…

  4. This is as bad as the gun control crap… If you yell the lie loud enough, and long enough, your syncopats will eventually believe it (maybe)… However the reality is reasonably priced ebooks still dominate the market and I’m pretty sure that trend is only increasing. I like the feel of a real book in my hands, but realistically I can no longer afford either the cost or the room required to store them. When I have about 1000 books on a nook that I can hold in my hand, that says something about the ‘availability’ to me. FWIW, I’m small potatoes but I see my books selling about a 10:1 ratio of ebook to soft cover. Price DOES make a difference.

  5. I worked in publishing for a lot of years, and an interesting thing happened starting about 1990: Big publishers began hiring high-level managers who had never worked in publishing before. These were spreadsheet jockeys first and foremost, and when all you stare at are numbers, all numbers start to look alike. Worse, you no longer connect them to the real-world concepts that they supposedly represent. We hired a marketing manager once at my publishing company whose sole experience had been in household appliances. He thought books could be marketed like refrigerators. He didn’t last long.

    A man I knew back then summed it up this way: “Publishing is being overrun by people who don’t read books.” It’s true. There are other issues plaguing tradpub these days, but that may well be the worst of it.

    I had the insight some time back that traditional media doesn’t much like the idea of ebooks, because ebooks are easy to self-publish, and self-publishing competes with all traditional media at the food bowl. Self-publishing (whether books or blogs) just makes journalists less…necessary. The journalists are not pleased.

    I, however, who have been both publisher and journalist, am very pleased.

    • And then the spreadsheet guys said, ‘Look, we can save a ton of money by getting rid of experienced editors and replacing them with desperate English majors fresh out of college.’ Senior management didn’t read books, and the new editorial staff didn’t understand the business (or any business). The institutional memory was disrupted from top to bottom.

      • Tom, it’s worse than that. The new editorial staff often ALSO didn’t read the books, not if they were accepted on proposal and were considered low prestige. Sometimes the only person who read my books was the copy-editor.

        • The Other Sean

          And your adoring fans!

        • Yeah, that goes with the total destruction of institutional memory. Bits of wisdom like, ‘You know, maybe we ought to actually read a book before buying it,’ were flushed down the memory hole.

          The most stupid and abusive procedures were retained because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ (for values of ‘always’ meaning ‘longer than a couple of years, which is how long any of us have been working here’). The sound and sensible procedures were flushed because they could not be justified to bean-counters who had no interest in telling good product from bad. A perfect storm of suck.

        • And any more that copy editor is a junior employee with far too much faith in MS Word’s spelling and grammar checker. And based on anecdotal stories from several authors precisely zero appreciation for nuanced or colloquial spelling or, Lord save us, technical terminology.

          • That explains why the guys I work with are now so busy they’re having to take advance orders. As in, they’d like you to place your order two-three months before they get started. I’m glad they’re doing well, but it crimps my style! *wry grin*

          • They corrected Shakespeare. I mean direct Shakespeare quotes. not even obscure ones. enough said.

    • Kate Paulk explained that in her Con- series: Publishers/Editors are now all demons, working hard to destroy the industry.

      • Your Grace, or shall I say, because you are a Vile Human, Your Disgrace,

        This is a vile calumny. We demons would never stoop so low as to work as publishers or editors. It doesn’t pay well enough. (If you think rents are high in Manhattan, try finding an apartment in Hell.) No, those menial and soul-destroying jobs are assigned to our bought and beholden human lackeys. Their souls are there to be destroyed.

        (Signed)
        H. Smiggy McStudge

      • Kate goes to Lunacon. We get to see the demons there. Let’s just say that the Toad Of Tor isn’t the worst of them.

    • This isn’t limited to publishing. I hate dealing with US companies, with some exceptions, because everyone I talk to doesn’t have the faintest clue what they do for a living. I’m in a technical trade, and our value added is to keep things running. My customers pay me well for not losing sales because the equipment doesn’t work, or the staff doesn’t go home, or stuff is lost. The manufacturers have been merged or bought out, and the first thing they do is get rid of anyone with knowledge of who their customers are. I regularly run into two month wait for parts needed yesterday. I’ve asked them what business do you think you are in?

      Asians are now cleaning their clocks.

      • Ayup… I blame the MBA programs, myself. These asses all think that everything is interchangeable, and it isn’t. Widget business “A” does not function like widget business “B”, and industry “Q” is not interchangeable with either one…

        I don’t know what the hell they think in the MBA world, but I’m here to tell you, absolutely nothing substitutes for ground-level up knowledge of a given trade or business. You can’t even tell when you’re being bullshitted by the people you hire that are experts at this stuff, because you don’t know enough to identify the BS when it is reported to you with straight faces.

        In the military, there’s a lot of discouragement on offer when your senior enlisted want to switch career fields. There’s a reason for that, and it stems from the fact that every career field has a different culture, based on what it has to do to be successful. A senior infantry NCO going over to military intelligence is not going to be successful at doing MI things, at all. Unless he’s some kind of super-quick learner, and an astute observer of things, that is. Usually, those poor bastards wind up focusing solely on “common leadership issues” like uniforms and billets, and never get into the weeds to know the real job in their new field. It’s a common syndrome, and can be observed throughout the services. And, it translates into civilian life with more fidelity than I thought possible–I work around a lot of people who’ve changed their careers in mid-life, and while it is possible to learn a new field from the bottom up, lateral transfer of skills does not often work. An older person with more life experience will usually do well, in a new field, making use of already learned skills and general knowledge, but their successful transition usually doesn’t go well unless they start at the bottom and legitimately work their way up the chain in the new field.

    • MBA “managers” who have never done any non-management work and have not a clue and not half a clue about how the business (or academic institution) they are “managing” actually generates product may not be THE greatest disaster of our economy, but it makes the shortlist.

      • Terry Sanders

        One of the things I’m playing with is a sort of Tom Swift takeoff. One of the villainous organizations is SIMBA: the Secret Illuminated Masters of Business Administration…

  6. Let me see if I can explain this as I would a child: your little friends love and adore your cupcakes. So you decide to set up shop and make a batch in your easy-bake oven, and sell them for ten cents a piece. Since your friends’ on average have an allowance of a dollar a week, you sell out of the whole batch in hours. So you think “Hey, I can make more.” You set the price at a dollar per cupcake. No one buys them. Your conclusion is “My friends no longer like cupcakes and prefer to eat vegetable sticks.”

    Keep in mind, I have a keyboard in front of me most of my time after hours. If I get bored enough, and I find other author’s writing unentertaining enough, and if it blows my budget, I’ll just start writing my own stuff. 😛 That’s always going to cost me precisely $0. (Actually, I need to do more of it. Start living more in my own head and less in other people’s, exercise the imagination, and all that.)

    • The only problem is that you will know how the story ends before you start reading it.

      • That depends entirely on how you go about constructing a plot. Some stories for some people don’t gel unless you start writing them to figure out where they’re going. *grin*

      • Truth be told, that’s true of most stories. The hero will triumph. The villain will be defeated. The leading man and the leading lady will end up together. The balance will be restored, and joy and happiness will reign throughout the land. Yeah, there are some books that surprise me with their endings, but most take me to exactly the place I thought I was going to go from the start.

        I read books not because I want to be surprised at the destination but because I want to come along for the ride and enjoy the trip.

        • My lower back no longer accepts roller-coasters, but I still seek the pleasures of the ride.

          Even when I’ve read* a book before i can enjoy taking the tour again.

          *For certain values of “read” — such as read the book, read the Classics Comics version, saw the Movie/TV series/Broadway Musical based on it … had some nut tell me the ending in an online discussion without a SPOILERS warning just because the book was published thirty years ago … What!? Rick gives up Ingrid Bergman and joins the Resistance with Claude Raines? Hell, ain’t watching the rest of that movie! What’s this about Charlton Heston spotting the Statue of Liberty buried in the sand?

          • Okay. I’m debating turning in instead of doing my insty turn. I read that as Charlton Heston SPOONING the Statue of Liberty…

            • The Other Sean

              Heston was quite patriotic, so spooning with Lady Liberty doesn’t see out of the question. 🙂

              • Except we now know (thanks to intrepid, normative-challenging, SJW analysis published at Slate) that spooning is an act of paternalistic dominance.

                No, I am not giving a link to any article in Slate — I’d sooner link to Mother Jones or The Nation, which are at least honest about their agenda-driven journalism. Read this summary at National Review Online and give thanks for the brain cells not destroyed by reading of the original article.

      • I have not noticed this problem, so far. ~:D

      • “By His Bootstraps” by RAH was very interesting for me. When I first read it, I had no idea what it was going to be like, and it’s the type of story I would not go into details talking about, because I don’t want it to be “spoiled”.

        BUT, when I read it, I read it again, immediately, and it was even more fantastic knowing what was going on!

        If I recall correctly, I think I ended up rereading all the stories in the anthology that had “By His Bootstraps”, in part because this short story compelled me to re-read it, and that, in turn, made me susceptible to re-reading the others.

        I’ve come to conclude that if a story is “spoiled” because you know the twist ending, then the telling of it could probably be done better…having said that, it’s also fun to encounter the surprise twists for the first time, so I respect desires not to “spoil” something that someone hasn’t encountered for the first time (and likewise insist that others respect not disclosing spoilers to me…).

  7. $17 for ebook Arg!

  8. adventuresfantastic

    I still read a lot of print books, but that’s largely because they show up at my house as review copies, not because I bought them at B&N or online. I prefer ebooks, and I’m buying more of those from inide authors.

  9. I have direct experience of the “management drinks its own PR ink” phenomenon from the tech world, more than once. Any major shift in technology or business is always forshadowed, with some competitors going out on a limb and adopting what turns out to be The Way Of The Future, and everyone else looking on an saying “Those Guys Are Crazy”.

    A company that is making money doing what they have been doing is predisposed to keep doing that, and making any change while you are still even somewhat successful is a way to have your head handed to you by the board or stockholder revolt at the annual meeting, so a CEO getting convinced to throw all efforts in a new direction is very rare.

    I have twice been part of companies whose main mode of business was going to go away. From when the first direct competitor goes away due to the shift in tech or whatever, to the obvious shift in customers buying, through to the point when the top rank and file are bailing out having seen that writing on the wall, always the CEOs quarterly message and the official line all the way down the management chain remains “this downturn is a temporary setback, part of the natural business cycle, things will come back if we just keep doing our job, don’t worry, be happy.” They grasp at any hint in the industry press that they are not in fact on the wrong branch of the decision tree, and keep doing what worked before, and then the layoffs start, and even then they keep telling every rond of layoff survivors “We’re a leaner team! Success will return! Drink this Kool Aid!” until one day it’s all gone.

    It takes a huge amount of foresight to throw everything you know out the window and change a company’s direction radically, and that degree of decisiveness is just not selected for in developing big company management. On the other hand, just that just that degree of foresight and decisiveness is selected for in the people who do new startups, which is why entrepreneurs end up taking over from old established companies over and over again – the only way they can succeed is by finding a new better way to do things. This is the whole “creative destruction” thing in action, with innovative new enterprises destroying and replacing established enterprises that cannot adapt, and by their nature the people who are successful at running established enterprises just cannot do what’s needed.

    In the pub world you saw this with Jim Baen – and the reaction from everyone else was standard doomed management reaction from the folks that were even then doomed.

    • It takes a huge amount of foresight to throw everything you know out the window and change a company’s direction radically, and that degree of decisiveness is just not selected for in developing big company management. On the other hand, just that just that degree of foresight and decisiveness is selected for in the people who do new startups, which is why entrepreneurs end up taking over from old established companies over and over again – the only way they can succeed is by finding a new better way to do things. This is the whole “creative destruction” thing in action, with innovative new enterprises destroying and replacing established enterprises that cannot adapt, and by their nature the people who are successful at running established enterprises just cannot do what’s needed.

      Why do you think the last round of disruptors bought the Democrat Party? To raise the barriers for entry on their future competitors. Obamacare’s 50 employee cutoff is perfect for that end. Under that law, the cost of your 50th employee isn’t just the cost of one employee, it’s the non-trivial* cost of providing insurance for every employee or the slightly less non-trivial* cost of paying the fine for each employee. Far better to build your company up to a couple dozen employees and then get bought out by one of the big boys.

      *And by “non-trivial” I mean “fecking huge.”

      • Or you have the couple of dozen each serve as the management for two dozen contractors employed by some company in Bangalore. Of course, the NLRB is trying to regulate that one out of existence.

        • You still don’t have a corporate structure that could scale to something that could threaten an established company.

    • This is why “generals always fight the last war” has become axiomatic.

      It is also why vested interests in this country have worked so hard to stifle innovation and entrepreneurship, raising barriers for access to capital and talented personnel (as well as imposing heavier administrative overloads) across the board. In the Eighties this was the battle over “Junk Bonds” and in the Nineties they fought the battle in the Mergers & Acquisitions arena.

      That only changes who eats your lunch, just as refusal to allow the Keystone Pipeline only changes who burns that oil.

      • But killing the Keystone is a wondermus victory for the eco green anti fossil fuel crowd. That nasty tar sand shale stuff will remain buried forever now. The Canadians would never dream of selling it to China now would they.
        Sarcasm aside, that oil will now travel by rail and ship to an end user with none of the emission restrictions that are industry standards for US users.
        I do like to point that out to the very few greenie friends who can still stand to be around me. Funny thing, they get fewer and fewer by the week.

        • … that oil will now travel by rail and ship to an end user

          Often that end user will be in America. Next time a train shipping Canadian Tar Sands Oil derails it would be amusing to see the lawyers sue Tom Steyer and environmentalist activist groups which lobbied against the pipeline.

          Enviros lied, people died!

        • I understand that if the Saudi’s keep oil at $50/barrel, they will be bankrupt in 5 years; however, at that price the tar sand oil is close to break-even. But never fear, I understand that those clever Canadians have re-purposed some existing pipelines and a few extensions to get the oil to the eastern maritime provinces. Tar sand oil might be dirtier than West Texas Intermediate; however, it is certainly cleaner to the environment than that coal plant a day China is building.

          • Don’t forget that it wasn’t that long ago that “tight” oil wasn’t profitable below $120 a barrel. The Saudis are trying to price North America out of the market, but it isn’t going to work. Just wait until an intelligent President opens federal lands for oil development (or, better yet, deeds all that land back to the states).

            • The latest brainstorm by the whackos is to pressure Obama into revoking the operating permits for any current oil production on Federal land.

              • Brainstorm? Like these flatworms have brains.

                Man, the next President better come into office with a brand new pen to unwind all of Barry the Simple’s dumb ideas.

              • That and the “endangered lizard” that threatens to shut down operations in the Permian Basin in both TX and NM. Little 4″ brown desert lizard.

                • But the EPA grants waivers to Harry Reid’s Nevada solar plant that fries endangered raptors?

                  • But that’s just because solar is environmentally friendly! We must sacrifice the raptors to save them from breathing nasty filtered and scrubbed coal fumes!

                • I think most of the operators in the Permian Basin have given the EPA their middle finger on that one with the blessings of the states of Texas and NM.

    • William O. B'Livion

      Any major shift in technology or business is always forshadowed, with some competitors going out on a limb and adopting what turns out to be The Way Of The Future, and everyone else looking on an saying “Those Guys Are Crazy”.

      And how many companies have adopted The Way Of The Future and sank without sound?

      Right now (well, there always is) a muttering in the tech community about what to replace C/C++ with as a “systems” langage. Go, Rust, and a few others are the challengers.

      Anyone who bets against C/C++ is crazy. But eventually they will get displaced.

      But when will you bet your career?

  10. I’m wondering if Amazon is going to (or perhaps they already have?) stick some sort of POD machine in there, to allow people to order paperbacks and pick them up there, rather than wait to have them shipped.

    Or they could put one printing press in a central location, and then do ’24 hour’ printing, like all those stores that used to offer overnight film developing (back when we still had film – now isn’t THAT a comparison!)

    Doing something like that would be the start of the nailing of the big 5’s coffin shut.

    • The Espresso Book Machine … basically an all in-one printer and binder. A bit high-end at present, but when they came out with it a couple of years ago, my indy book group visualized bookstores having one in-house, access to a huge number of digital files for the cover and text … and perhaps have a single sample copy in store for readers to thumb through.
      Like it? Go to the Espresso desk, and they’d print and bind your very own copy right there on the spot.
      No need for a warehouse, or even a back room. Just the machine, and access to the digital file library.

      • In short order the really aggressive stores would have two or even three such devices to ensure no customer has time to change her mind to wait for the ordered book.

        My dentist has a device which will cast and shape a crown in under an hour rather than go through the two-week process of casting a mold, installing a temporary crown and waiting for the permanent one to be manufactured. They also have an X-ray machine in every examination room rather than just one for the whole office.

        People pay for convenience all the time.

      • If anyone right now has the money and the ability to bring the price of that machine down, it’s Amazon. The problem is, you would need several of them at each store, in order to keep up with demand, and you’d want to run them all night long as well, to amortize (I think that’s the word I’m looking for) their cost down. Exactly like all those photo companies did with their computer controlled film processing machines.

        So I’m looking at this new store of Amazon’s and wondering if they’re about to turn the corner on this technology.

      • The difficulty is that an Espresso is only in use when the store is open and a customer happens to order a product that is available in that format but not on the shelves. Meanwhile, CreateSpace and Lightning Source have POD machines that can run 24/7 (minus maintenance time) to fill a steady stream of orders, so they don’t waste money on expensive equipment that spends most of the time sitting idle.

        • The answer to that problem is staged pricing: list, if you want the book right now, a percentage off for next day, another percentage off for second day, etc. Bottom line price would be space-A, where they fit your book in when they can and call you when it’s ready. Then fire up the machine and hire a guy to work the night shift.

        • The problem with large-scale book manufactures like Lightning and CreateSpace is that they’re not close to the customers, and books have to be shipped somehow. Filling a book request like a prescription (hand the clerk an order sheet and then browse the store shelves for twenty minutes) would be a different order of magic. High-end DocuTech machines (of the sort that Lightning uses) will never be in bookstores. They’re too big, too fussy, and cost too much. As I understand it, Espresso was designed for intermittent use. I think that if they were run 24/7 they would die quickly. So if anything is going to be used in bookstore back-room service, it would be Espresso or something very like it.

          • But who wants to hang around for twenty minutes waiting? To say nothing of travel time to and from the store. Ordering from Amazon is ‘fire and forget’. It has been many years since I was in a bookshop where it was actually fun to spend time browsing.

            • Sears might be the perfect place for that. Come in, browse the tools or housewares as the mood strikes you, then pick up you books. The other way to go would be order ahead online then go to the store where your book is waiting. All the convenience of ordering online with the instant gratification of shopping brick-and-mortar.

            • Amazon’s pre-ordering is a nice treat. I can go through, say, Baen’s upcoming calendar and pre-order items of interest, then forget about them. Six months later something arrives and surprises!

            • I’d be willing to give an Amazon brick & mortar bookstore a chance to be fun to browse through. Wrong coast, but if they open a second store in NYC I’ll visit at least once. And I’m pretty committed to ebooks for most purposes. (Children’s books and survivalist books being the exceptions.)

          • One way around it is to utilize large sheet printers — feed newsprint designed to take 16 pages to the sheet through, printing both sides simultaneously. The trick would lie in the cutting/assembling but I’ve no doubt that can be readily managed.

            • Some of the “big” POD machines–I think the ones IBM sells–are sheet fed, and I think some print both sides at once. I saw one at a trade show once, with the panels open, and the copier repairman in me winced at the sheer complexity of the mechanism. Yes, it can be managed, but I think it takes a lot of management.

              • I have found success with printing pdf files pamphlet-style, but it can get problematic, especially when your printer sucks in two sheets for one or wads up the third sheet of the dozen currently being printed.

              • Big copiers are best managed with a rabbit’s foot, horseshoe, pope-soap-on-a-rope, and occasional visits by the school chaplain (Protestant) and priest (not-Protestant).

                • I always used Millard Fillmore soap-on-a-rope, but apart from that, yes.

                • There was a piece of equipment on my ship that not only had a chicken bone cross in the cabinet, but one of the Chiefs had brought down the chaplain to bless/exorcise.

                  It has since been replaced in the fleet with an electronic module that doesn’t work as well, but it reliably doesn’t work well.

                • But it is not a dark art. There are sound technical reasons why you have to sacrifice a white goat at the new moon.

      • And, for that matter, the author could sign your copy for you and have the signature printed right into the book.

    • Or they could put one printing press in a central location, and then do ’24 hour’ printing, like all those stores that used to offer overnight film developing (back when we still had film – now isn’t THAT a comparison!)

      They already do. That’s pretty much what Createspace is.

      • But you have to wait a few days for them to ship your book to you. Think about what it would do if you could get it tomorrow? Or even an hour later today?

        • Since Createspace is an Amazon subsidiary, they’ve got a far better delivery system backing them up than any brick-and-mortar bookshop not run by Amazon will ever have. Coming soon: Next-day delivery of POD products by Amazon drone. Book it.

          • Amazon drones: the future pigeons for Christmas skeet.

            • William O. B'Livion

              I was thinking about this today when my wife noticed a drone (camera included) for sale @7-11.

              It is illegal to discharge a firearm in most communities. However is it illegal to discharge a taser like device with a 200 foot vertical range?

              • So far, the precedent is that it’s sufficiently self-defense-ish for the guy who fired to have that charge dismissed.

                The slightly famous “three guys swear they totally weren’t spying on the neighborhood, and were totally more than 200 feet up, but everyone there had the exact same story and the card with the images maaaaaagically disappeared.”

                The spies claim the drone wasn’t shot down, it was damaged so it crashed, and that’s how they explain the shotgun taking out the drone at a ridiculous range for the ammo it had.

                (Can you tell who I believe?)

                • http://www.wdrb.com/story/30354128/judge-dismisses-charges-for-man-who-shot-down-drone

                  Story, and links to the claims and counter-claims.

                  Was #8 bird shot that took down the drone, at over 200 ft up according to the owner.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    There was a story of a sheep-herder who had shot at and hit a jet-fighter that had “buzzed” his flock.

                    The problem was that the jet-fighter should not been in range of his rifle so the top man investigated the shooting said that they should purchase his rifle as it was able to shoot so far.

                    Oh, the air-force in question dropped the issue and apparently no other jet-fighters bussed his flock. [Evil Grin]

                    • I not only believe it, I’d place that in a “rural legend” category.
                      (In case I mangled the name– it’s a Pratchett phrase. Urban legends are implausible but possible things that never actually happen; rural legends are implausible but possible things that happen relatively often. Other than that, they’re the same– vague on details, usually mildly amusing.)

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      I seem to remember that there were more details to the story but I’ve forgot the details necessary to research it. [Smile]

            • A quick check at Amazon reveals that while they offer a wide variety of Skeet shooting gear, they don’t seem to provide the pigeons. Along with clothing, phone apps, pigeon hangers, pigeon boards, pigeon throwers (manual and mechanical) and even a pewter hip flask …

              … but no sporting clays.

    • POD-in-the-back-room has been talked about almost since POD machines existed. I think two things are holding it back:

      1. The machines are still very expensive. The cheapest one I’ve ever seen a price quoted on was $85,000. The Big Boys (like the Xerox DocuTech 6135) weigh 2400 pounds and cost a quarter million dollars. (Most are leased.)

      2. The machines are kind of twitchy. There are a lot of moving parts and paper zipping around inside at pretty high speeds. My first job out of college was as a Xerox machine repairman, and moving sheets of paper reliably is a nontrivial engineering challenge. My guess is that maintenance is expensive, given the human skill levels required to keep the damned things running.

      This doesn’t mean it won’t ever be done, but it may only be done in dense urban areas in stores that get a lot of traffic, at least until reliable machines can be had for under $25,000.

      • Once a big bookstore — like Amazons’ outlet of this discussion — figures out how to utilize something like the Espresso, for on-the-spot, one-hour, or even overnight fulfillment to a customer, the whole retail book paradigm will change.
        Granted, they are expensive to purchase and operate now, and insanely complex to maintain – but as Jeff said; in a dense urban area in a store that gets lots of traffic … imagine how the size of the store itself could be reduced in an expensive downtown area. I am certain that some forward-thinking entrepreneur is already running the figures in his or her head.

        • The thing is, bookshops in dense urban areas, in spots that get lots of traffic, are getting swatted like flies. They can’t afford the rent. You’re right about the forward-thinking entrepreneur; the trouble is, his name is Jeff Bezos, and what he thinks after running the figures is, ‘Hell, I don’t need a physical storefront to do that. Though I may open one some day, just to plant my flag in the citadel of my vanquished foe.’

          • Tom may be right. In city cores, commercial space is insanely expensive, and bookselling is a relatively low-margin business. (I think that’s why B&N is moving more and more of its shelf-feet to Lego sets.) I would add the insight that if a publisher is willing to license a print image PDF to a bookstore to print in the back room, they can sell that PDF directly to a customer. This wouldn’t make sense for novels, but might make sense for technical books with a lot of illustrations, code listings, etc. Tablets are getting better and better all the time, and I’ve used PDFs of tech books successfully for years. All you need is sufficient screen area.

            Perhaps what would make sense in dense urban cores is a sort of service bureau in an industrial park (cheaper rent) that has a fleet of POD machines, and prints them out for messenger delivery. A bookstore or publisher or web site would send the print image to the service bureau, and the customer could get it via messenger in three or four hours.

            Of course, all of this hinges on how much demand there will be for printed books in our near future. I haven’t bought much print SFF in the last year, and none at all since I got my Paperwhite.

            Print image piracy is an interesting wrinkle on this, which I was writing about in 2007:

            http://www.duntemann.com/september2007.htm#09-04-2007

            I don’t know if anyone will ever bother doing this on a large scale, but it’s certainly possible.

            • Of course, all of this hinges on how much demand there will be for printed books in our near future.

              That’s the problem precisely. The new technology helps to paper over the inefficiencies of the old technology; but the new technology also makes the old technology unnecessary.

              There was a time when mainframe computer makers (there I go again) thought PCs would actually add to their business, because everybody could use their PC as a terminal to access a real computer. Oops. There was even, so I’m told, a time when Western Union thought the telephone was going to make them boatloads of money, because they could deliver telegrams by reading them to the recipients over the phone and not have to send messengers everywhere. Plus, people could phone in their telegrams instead of having to come into the office. Double oops.

              ‘The automobile is a fine thing,’ said the buggy-whip maker. ‘It will allow me to deliver my buggy whips faster than ever before to my customers, who, of course, are all going to go on driving buggies.’

            • With the 15 an hour min wage law in Seattle, retailers are fleeing. So I’m not so sure that rents will stay high.

              • I’m kinda waiting for the other shoe to drop, to see when these idiots figure out that they’ve essentially killed the low-level retail and restaurant market. I keep hearing everyone with half a brain around here (who seem to be mostly Democrats…) rave about how Seattle is the light of a new age, but they signally don’t seem to understand economics. Asked a client, who says that he’s going to raise his employees wages to match Seattle, how he’s going to afford that. He’s planning on raising his prices. My next question was, how he foresaw that shaking out in a few years, when a $15.00 an hour wage leads to ten-dollar Big Macs, which is an inevitable outgrowth of the whole idea. He just looked confused, and told me I didn’t care about people…

                I really think this whole thing started when they dumbed down education, because a whole lot of people apparently missed out on basic economics. No matter how you denominate the value, whether it’s in Weimar marks, or today’s dollars, unskilled labor is unskilled labor. Pay $15.00 an hour for it, and you’re only going to have a little itty-bitty period of time before the market corrects itself for you, and makes that $15.00 an hour worth what the current minimum wage is. That’s inevitable, because the only way that $15.00 an hour is going to hold its value is if everyone who is paying it can somehow manage to recoup that much value from each employee they’re paying that much. That ain’t happening, without firing most of them and replacing them with automation. It really amazes me that people can’t seem to grasp this fact: unskilled labor doesn’t and can’t lead to more than marginal jobs, and if anyone can do your job without significant training, you’re in an unskilled job. About your only hope is that doing it is so unpleasant that nobody wants to do it for minimum wage…

                • You don’t need $15 Big Macs if the back end is automated.

                  Naturally all you get jobwise is one order taker per shift with a degree in fix-the-gizmo instead of the previous crew of 10, but hey, she makes more than $15/hr!

                  • That’s the point: If they don’t automate, then that $15.00 an hour wage will generate a rise in all prices, functionally leaving the minimum-wage worker right where they’re at. If they do automate, that minimum-wage worker is out of a freakin’ job. You won’t get both a high wage and general employment for the unskilled.

                    One way or another, the value of their labor has to be worth paying them. Mod one end of it, and the other end squeezes out of the tube. There is no damn way that entry-level unskilled labor, like that which mans the fast-food industry, can be legislated into being a family-supporting career. It just isn’t economically possible. Seattle is going to kiss goodbye to all those jobs, one way or another, along with the developmental path for those young people. McDonalds and other employers have served as training grounds for the sort of “failed” (in terms of participating in the college-educated economy, that is…) demographic for a long damn time. That’s not going to be there, now, so expect more urban dysfunction.

                    • They are not going to catch on because most are N generations from running their own business. They cannot grasp two simple things:

                      1. Minimum wage is for entry level jobs. You start at minimum wage but don’t stay at minimum wage unless there’s something wrong.

                      2. Economics so basic it would be obvious if they bought lemons, sugar, and cups for their own lemonade stand.

                      My guess is that most of these have never worked minimum wage jobs and don’t comprehend the entry level aspect, and never had any real experience in small business.

                      Another possibility is they want people to be unemployed and on the dole. Wouldn’t put it past them.

                      That said, the union workers at Camillus probably didn’t think they were striking themselves out of a job after they won and the company folded. The Camillus name is now owned by Acme, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re made in China.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      That said, the union workers at Camillus probably didn’t think they were striking themselves out of a job after they won and the company folded.

                      Same for Hostess here in Cincinnati.

                    • BTW, I used to love when we stopped at Burger Chef when we went through a large town. They has semi-automated the process in the 1960s. I’m sure it can be automated more now.

                    • along with the developmental path for those young people.

                      And there you have the plan. Cut off any avenue of career development that doesn’t involve the Progressive indoctrination facility that is the modern college and the Democrats can actually remain viable at the national level. There’s a reason that everyone who advocates for a higher minimum wage also calls for free tuition.

  11. Interesting to read this on a day when the political news is in meltdown over a (now thoroughly discredited) Politico story over claimed misrepresentations of his biography by Ben Carson. A story which is more revelatory of its author’s & editors’ ignorance than of Carson’s authenticity.

    From a political press which has never questioned a single claim in the biographies of our current president … and reacted with outraged cries of “Raaaaacist!” whenever any inquiries into the underlying facts were attempted.

    And now Sarah offers this analysis of a news story so full of manure that there’s just got to be a pony unicorn!

    There be reasons that what the news publishes are called “stories.” Sure, these are “a story based on a true event” — which as any connoisseur of La-La-Land product will, with a dollar seventy-five get you a small plain coffee at Starbucks.


    Newspapers, even conservative ones, are in the business of reporting what their buyers want to read. Their stories may be based on true events but the critical component of that statement is not “true events” but “based on.”

    • Timing is everything. Friday AM had story about Hillary signing the State Department non disclosure agreement on handling sensitive information. Must not let a story like that see the light, so Politico dusted off their hit piece on Carlson, and viola’ that is all the news channels cover today and Sunday.
      Expect to see this playbook exercise repeated constantly over the next year.

  12. “BUT no power on Earth can convince me to spend $15 for an ebook, even if I like your work. H*ll, even if I LOVE your work.”
    =
    THANK you, Sarah. I’ve wondered if it was just me, if I was being unreasonably stingy to refuse to pay over $10 for something which costs $.06 to produce/disseminate. Since I’m quite sure that the author isn’t getting the extra dollars, I just won’t buy them.
    I buy a lot of eBooks and I buy a lot of treeware (some authors, I just want to have handy on a shelf to grab and leaf through, such as Pratchett, Butcher, Weber…) every month. Think subscribing to Kindle Unlimited might be a good idea…

    • I will occasionally spend 5.99 on an ebook, but only ‘occasionally’ and you have to have a known ability to deliver for that (and it has to be over 200 pages). Normally 4.99 is my threshold.
      Anything more than 5.99 I won’t buy as an ebook.

      • I will buy a 9.99 on certain authors… but I will wait for three or more months for the ebook to drop. Unfortunately some of them don’t drop in price *sigh.

    • There are a few times when I’ve paid more than $10 for an ebook. For instance, when it’s a required text for a course or conference; or when it contains information that I need for research right now. And then there was the biography of Steve Jobs that I paid a high price to put on my iPhone; it seemed appropriate somehow.

      For recreational reading, five bucks is pretty much my limit.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        For me, it has to be from a “Must Read” Author before I’ll go above $9.99.

        Authors like David Weber, Jim Butcher, David Drake, etc.

        Oh, Sarah Hoyt but I haven’t seen any ebooks by her over $9.99. [Wink]

      • Reality Observer

        When I finally finished up my BS degree at University of Phoenix, I figure the $75 book fee per course (every five weeks) probably averaged out to around $35 a required book (some had two books, some had three, a few had one).

        On the other hand, I don’t begrudge that expense all that much – because I have lifetime access to their entire library and periodical accesses. Some of the things I have needed to dig up at times would have meant wasting day trip to the public University, and copying fees (which are outrageous there).

        The one thing they don’t have much of is in the hard sciences – but the MIT free courses fill most of that gap.

      • I’ll go up to $20 for a non-fic e-book that 1) I can’t rent, 2) don’t have time to ILL or I need to have them for reference and 3) I really need for teaching or research. Really, really “can’t finish this without the data” need, and those are rare. On the other paw, the print books are usually $50+ used, so even overpriced e-books are cheaper. As it is, weekly I thank the Great Author for ILL!

    • Unfortunately for big publishing, Amazon has those boxes comparing Kindle, paperback and hardback prices for the same title. I have seen some where the ebook ‘price set by publisher’ where the ebook is actually more expensive than the mass market paperback. For me, the price points for ebooks is $2.99, anything that looks interesting. $4.99-$6.99, a known author or a recommendation from here/MGC. Over $6.99, a great author, and not from a big name publisher (although Baen published may make this cut on its own). Any ebook by a big name publisher where ebook exceeds 40% of hardcover price… never.

    • SheSellsSeashells

      FWIW, I have been *very* happy with Kindle Unlimited. The lending library is a wonderful thing and has let me read any number of Cool New Things when money is tight.

  13. I have been the “that guy with the paper book” at times. No having to turn it off or stow it for part of a flight, and I didn’t have a tablet or e-reader. I still don’t, but I can see that changing Real Soon Now.

    • “Did you see that Minotaur in 21B?”
      “Don’t be specist. He fits in the seat so he can ride to Phoenix.”
      “No, he’s reading a paperback – I mean, on real paper!
      “What?! I gotta go see this!”

    • Thankfully, the FAA came to its senses and I no longer have to turn off my electronics at any stage of flight. And listening to George Carline’s airline announcements is much preferable over the real thing.

  14. I still trend slightly to pulp in hand. But then my reading time has lessened a bit over the last few years and I go a lot for used books.

    Also, dollar stores. I’m perfectly willing to experiment on a writer I’ve never read when I pay a buck six for a hardcover.

  15. I can’t belive nobody has mentioned the Gell-Mann amnesia effect.

    Just remember, “journalist” comes from a Sanskrit phrase meaning “ignorant of everything.” Seriously, mainstream media today consists almost entirely of journalism graduates reprocessing press releases from favored organizations that were written by other journalism graduates to generate favorable press coverage. It’s memetic incest. Probably why their ideas look funny and die when you poke them.

    • Well, you won’t see “Gell-Mann amnesia” in the papers very often.

      As to “journalism graduates reprocessing press releases from favored organizations” … I was wondering about which opposition campaign dropped that Carson story in Politico‘s lap, and the discussions determining which Politico journalist was dumb enough to run with it without ever questioning the purported allegations. Sure, the anti-gun crowd has an abundance of useful idiots, but it requires a “special” mix of ambitious stupidity to run that spavined “never offered a full scholarship to West Point” nag in the race.

      • Ambitious stupidity, useful idiots… I think you have the Politico staff down to a T.

      • Well, the type of hipster D-bag or Self-righteous Jacobin Wannabe that goes to study “journaljism” these days probably has no family or friends that have ever been near the US military. And are too intellectually lazy to even look at the Wikipedia page on West Point and discover EVERY US citizen cadet is, if you like, “on full scholarship” in the sense that they study for free in return for a stint of active-duty service afterward.

      • I was wondering about which opposition campaign dropped that Carson story in Politico‘s lap

        Probably can’t limit it to only a few people, either. I wouldn’t put it past the “country club” Republicans to “leak” something like this to smooth the path for their Fair Haired Establishment Boy (Jeb? I honestly dunno, offhand) by making the current popular option look bad.

  16. There is a new “used bookstore” that already has two locations near here. It touts itself as “$1 Bookstore, everything $1”. They get big business because of the amount of homeschoolers and students around here. There is another more traditional used bookstore that has been in business for a long time because they did regular used and allowed trade ins and store credit for books, and they had old, valuable books. Knowing what customers want and what they will pay for is the key. All the other, regular bookstores have pretty much closed other than the Barnes & Noble.

  17. I actually read a paper book for the first time in ages. It was because I didn’t think they would allow electronic devices where I was going though, so I dug through the garage to find something that I hadn’t read yet out of my old collection.

    The only time I buy paper books is when the publisher won’t release a DRM free version of the e-Book.

  18. Publishers raised their prices which made THEIR ebooks sell less, so they thought paper books were coming back and invested big in those.

    No story that starts like that ends well unless you’re in competition with them.

    If publishers want to price their ebooks at $17 a pop, they have that right. Hopefully they wise up, for the sake of their authors and employees. They need to realize that they no longer control the market. Maybe a 12-step program?

    • The first step in a 12-step program is to admit that you have no control over your problem. Trad publishers not only think they are in control of the industry, they think that they and no others are the industry.

      • It is amusing to consider that the industry which published Moneyball somehow imagine it only applies to Baseball. The inability/unwillingness to modify their business models according to statistical analysis is widespread and especially a weakness of the book-selling industry. They tinker at the edges, seeking the magic formula to push profits higher all the while ignoring the single most salient facts.

        They exist in a dynamic market yet refuse to resist the inertia of sunk costs. Rather than learn how to recognize and adapt to constantly changing economic conditions they want a magic sword that will be ever sharp and cut through anything. The future belongs to those who adapt and those who refuse to adapt become fossil fuels.

        Statistical analysis is a tool, one useful at spotting trends and unexploited niches. It can help you decide which “pockets of ore” are valuable enough to mine and which are best sold to the gullible. It can tell you when a niche is either playing out or too competitive to be useful. It helps determine what an asset is worth just enough ahead of the market to buy it cheaply and sell it dearly. It enables you to gain a half step on competitors and arbitrage the advantage, to operate more efficiently and effectively.

        Those who thought Moneyball was all about Baseball did not understand the book. The Bill James-led sabremetric analysis of Baseball was merely an experiment in an unusually pure arena of how to employ statistical analysis tools to recognize value.

        • When I read Moneyball and saw the movie, the first thing I thought was, ‘This is just like publishing.’

          As far as I’m concerned, John Henry’s speech at the end of the film perfectly describes the ongoing meltdown in trad publishing:

          The first guy through the wall, he always gets bloody. Always. This is threatening not just a way of doing business, but in their minds, it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihood, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s a government, or a way of doing business, or whatever it is, the people who are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch, they go batshit crazy.

        • I thought the publishing industry was more closely based on Calvinball.

      • Trad publishers are in control of their industry. What offends and repulses them is the growing realization that electronic book sales are a far different industry, and that all their established expertise does them absolutely no good in this new business.
        No sell through, no returns, no materials cost other than infrastructure, and not even that if you subcontract distribution to Amazon. And most importantly, no choke hold on the authors. How dare those upstart annoying people dare to challenge the ones who actually contribute value to the final product. After all, it’s not the silly authors, they just make stuff up. It’s the publishers who take a field turd and lovingly polish it and turn it into something of value.
        Or so they still believe in their deepest hind brains even as their world comes crashing around their heads.

        • Trad publishers are in control of their industry.

          That’s what they want to believe. It ain’t so. They are not in the trad-publishing industry; they are in the book industry, and they don’t control it.

          What offends and repulses them is the growing realization that electronic book sales are a far different industry, and that all their established expertise does them absolutely no good in this new business.

          No, it’s the same industry, but business is done in far different ways which they are not equipped to cope with.

          Remember mainframe computers? When PCs first appeared, that was exactly the line the mainframe manufacturers took: PCs were a far different industry, and they, the mainframe guys, were still in control of the real computer business. There was no need to develop products for the desktop, or to sell computers through retail channels. What a silly thing to do!

          The only mainframe maker that adapted to the new technology was IBM, and even they had to establish an independent business unit to do it. The IBM PC was the first IBM product made almost entirely with parts from third-party manufacturers – and IBM’s own component factories howled. It was the first IBM product sold at retail instead of through the direct sales force – and IBM’s salesmen howled. And the PC and its successors wound up cannibalizing nearly the whole damn business.

          Trad publishing nowadays is much like mainframe computing in the 1980s, except for two things: (1) There is no IBM among the Price-Fix Five, and (2) Where the mainframe makers were genuinely brilliant at producing the products that they knew and understood, publishing is largely run by people who don’t know their products and have never even tried to listen to their customers.

  19. This may be a little to one side of the topic, but I rarely pay more than $5 for print books, either, and most of them are new, where “new” means “never read.”. The trick is to wait six or eight months, by which time a typical book has a high probability of being remaindered. And even if it isn’t remaindered, used copies in good shape will be up on Amazon and ABEBooks, often in a month or even less. (Some people buy a book, read it, and immediately list it for sale online.) This is especially true of books from very large publishers, who factor tax consequences heavily into their inventory strategy.

    Paying cover price for print books is a sort of “impatience tax,” and patience has paid off richly for me.

    • Where to find remaindered books, though? Dollar stores get some. Where else?

      • ABEBooks. Amazon. I get them from both places. Sometimes eBay. Many books marked “used” are in fact remainders. It’s hard to tell from a listing. However, most remaindered books have a black marker swipe along one edge. This is mainly a signal to retailers that the book is a remainder and cannot be returned for a refund.

        I used to see book “tent sales” in good weather in various places, usually the corner of a mall parking lot. Most of the books in such sales are remainders. There are whole companies who do nothing but buy remaindered books from publishers and sell them to discount houses and flea market and tent sale vendors. However, or the past ten years I think most of the tent sale business has moved online.

        • I’ve bought a number of “used” specialist books – British machine tool operation stuff – and what came in was obviously brand-new, from at least three different Amazon vendors.

          Since they’re small-press books and typically sell directly to the customer by mail, I doubt the normal remaindering process applies. But while they’re $20+ each new, they’re just large-format paperbacks less than a quarter inch thick.

          The first one, I was delighted to get a brand new book for a few dollars. The second, I was surprised. The third, fourth, and fifth… they’re small books, and the Voices wondered if the cost of counterfeiting was low enough to still be profitable to sell copies as “used books.”

  20. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    The traditional Pubs should listen to Larry here before they go broke.
    http://www.americanrhetoric.com/MovieSpeeches/moviespeechotherpeoplesmoneydevito.html
    On the other hand, they won’t listen, so Larry, whoever has that role now, should just watch for the inevitable and be prepared to salvage what’s left. Lots of fancy office buildings in NYC will soon be for sale. Along with some new warehouses in NJ.

  21. I had to get a book for a workshop I am running. I bought the paperback, new, because it was cheaper than the e-book; this was through Amazon.

  22. And yet, newspapermen who are notoriously bad at analyzing numbers, will run with these narratives pushed at them from above.

    Even the ones who can smell the dead fish stink coming off the narrative will often succumb. Editorial staffs tend toward the Ultra-Vindictive Dictator pole of managerial philosophy, and journalists are well aware of it. Such is the Power of the Paycheck.

  23. The only books I’ve bought in hard copy in the last couple months have been ones I found while loitering in a Barnes and Noble near my job because I was waiting for a ride. The one I grabbed most recently was a non – fiction book that was $24 hard back, $16 as an ebook and stuck in the clearance section with a 6.98 sticker on it.

    Now, ask me how many ebooks I’ve purchased this week. I’m not sure I can actually tell you except it’s more than 12 and doesn’t count the dozen or so my husband has gotten as well.

    I think we’re buying books the way we are because we remember when we couldn’t. And free ebooks were a godsend when we were so poor we couldn’t afford books. And we buy books before we buy groceries.

  24. Paper books will be going the way of LP Records. You can still get newly pressed LP’s of current albums (Taylor Swift for instance) or classic albums. However, that is not the main means of releasing an “album” of music to the general public- more often than not people will get it from I Tunes or Amazon, et al.
    Thus, the future of paper books will likely wind up with small runs of hardcovers copies of either hit authors or classics.

    • … the future of paper books will likely wind up with small runs of hardcovers copies of either hit authors or classics.

      Artisanal publishing. Emphasis on the first word’s last four letters.

    • Some other niche markets too. Jewish religious texts will always exist on paper because (if Orthodox, which I’m not) we aren’t allowed to operate powered devices on the Sabbath and most holidays.
      Yes, paper books will be around, but they will be a niche product.

    • Eh, we still sometimes carve words in stone. Depends on the use.

  25. c4c

  26. You know, it will never cease to amaze me how people — and by people, I mean most people, right, left or center — continue to swallow “surveys” and “statistics”

    *head whips around, looking for the camera*

    I was just grumbling about this last night– took one of the kids in to the doctor, and they ask the five million questions that are rather tough for me. Not because I’m not sure how the kids are sleeping, but because I’m not sure what, exactly, the answer wants. For example, ‘how many hours of sleep’– that can be from when they go to bed to when they’re “up,” it can be when they’re quiet to when they first stir, it can be a rough average (which will be even more rough if this was one of those “but 5AM is morning, mom!” days) or probably several other things.

    Thankfully, we’ve got some REALLY good nurses who will ask you leading questions when it’s stuff that’s not really medically needed; ie, “she sleeps about nine to ten hours a night?” “Three meals a day, plus snacks?”
    They have thus far spared me from questions about guns. (I think I’ll go with the “…you do realize that we’re training them in fighting styles in three different traditions, right? We haven’t bought her a sword of her own because she’s still growing.” answer.)

    But all those stupid questions are what get collected, filed, spun and dried to be woven into “normal” charts.

    • “They have thus far spared me from questions about guns. (I think I’ll go with the “…you do realize that we’re training them in fighting styles in three different traditions, right? We haven’t bought her a sword of her own because she’s still growing.” answer.)”

      You absolutely have to document the response to this, when you do it. I would pay cold, hard cash to watch the effect on the blissninny asking you those impertinent questions, once they realize you’re completely serious.

      Although, I suspect they’d be speed-dialing CPS, while they tried to delay your departure from their office. Which might be a consideration…

      • I can make it very boring.

        And I have the books to back it up, and we have the training swords for it. 😀

        • Wayne Blackburn

          Watch out for the time that they try to question the littles WITHOUT you there. I never had it happen to me, but I’ve heard several stories.

          • Ditto.

            Working on teaching the kids caution, and have a bucket load of stories of kids being abused by medical personnel to use as a reason to NOT teach them a “doctor” exception.

          • Oh, and we both teach OpSec– it’s not what the person you’re talking to will do with it, it’s what people they talk to will do with it.

            Guns are ESPECIALLY part of this, although anything that can be misunderstood gets rolled in.

  27. Note, that the store is said to be, mostly, for “showcasing Amazon products.”

    If they show that people will go, and browse, and then pick up the card for an ebook instead of the paperback… I can see a grocery store totally willing to cut down on the number of books they have to stock. 😀

  28. I like the concept of ebooks. My wife’s Kindle and Nook are enormously heavy from all the books they hold. And music and pictures. A kindle paperwhite was my birthday present last year. It went to my daughter. If someone turned it on for me, I couldn’t get it to turn pages. Or go to books. Or do anything with it, including turning it off. Me and touch screens don’t get along. My first touch screen phone was a nightmare for me to use. For unknown reasons, the much maligned firephone responds to my fingers. To date, it’s the only touchscreen that does.

    So, I’m still in the market for printed books. Touchscreens and I do not get along. And ebooks are all touchscreens.

    • Actually not. I read ebooks on my desktop computer mostly. Download the appropriate free kindle app (Amazon knows which side their bread is buttered on, and it isn’t the ereader software side), and away you go. Mouse or pagedown key to ‘turn’ the page.

      • Yes, but- I don’t carry my desktop or my laptop everywhere. And I had to buy a wireless mouse for my laptop. And a long time ago I realized I wasn’t unique- so there must be others with this problem. Not in my family, though.

        • Actually, I haven’t used a mouse in five years. Can still use one if I have to, but am irritated whenever I’m showing something on somebody’s machine and there is no trackpad 🙂

          • “haven’t used a mouse ON MY OWN MACHINES” 😉

          • Actually, I haven’t used a mouse in five years.

            Not one of my cats can make that claim. Killers, all of them, and I love them for it! 😀

          • Whereas the first thing I do on a new laptop is disable the trackpad because a) I can’t control finely enough with it and b) they put the trackpad right where my thumbs land when typing, tapping the trackpad is treated like a mouse click, and I haven’t found a way to turn that off without turning the whole thing off.

          • I loathe trackpads. I go as far as packing a trackball for the laptop when I travel. My preferred pointer is a trackball. One that I can use on the left. The times I have had a clerk say, “We have this great ergonomic trackball” and watched the smile fade into despair when I put my LEFT on it, “Doesn’t feel very ergonomic to me.” (I am generally right-handed/hoofed, but I’ve been using pointers on the left since the Apple //e had a mouse option in the 1980s. I actually have trouble with pointers to the right of the keyboard.)

            • The Other Sean

              My home mouse is an ergonomic right-hand model, set to the right of my keyboard. My mouse at work is a generic mouse, set to the left of the keyboard. Why? To even out the darn stress on my wrists. It has worked fairly well, too. Aches and pains from mouse use are now largely a thing of the past for me.

              • When I have issue or soreness or such on the right, there are claims of overuse of a mouse. I then explain the reality. Alas, the next suggested cause is… rather crude.

          • Trackball at home, on the main desk surface above the typing area (because the typing area is too small for my big keyboard and the trackball) and a generi-mouse at work. Actually, geriatric mouse is more accurate – it’s been hard used by everyone over the years. Either way, my shoulder is grumpy because I have to reach up to use the gizmo and its slowing healing from a weight-room injury. (Badly designed weight machines are bad.)

    • The last generation of Kindles pre-touchscreen were good, and available thorugh ebay. I’m considering asking for a Kindle Voyage for Christmas to get my button presses back, but I think you’d still need to use the touchscreens to select books.

      • they have buttons? I am going to ask for one, if things go well…

        • From research as I don’t have one, the Kindle Voyage doesn’t *technically* have buttons, but the edge around the screen senses pressure and will turn the page accordingly, with what’s called haptic feedback (basically, you press down on the non-touchscreen edge and the Kindle buzzes a little to show it understands and turns the page.)

          The pre-touchscreen Kindle had actual buttons, two on other side of the screen for forward and backward, plus another couple on the bottom. I wish they still made them, though I wouldn’t purchase another unless it also came with the background lighting, which is wonderful. (I like to fall sleep reading, and the ability to just put it away my book and not lean over to turn off the light is surprisingly wonderful.)

  29. (Other than Baen, I currently read two other authors. Period. Oh, and one in mystery.)
    I don’t read much long-form SF these days. I have discovered Umberto Eco and Joseph Conrad.
    Eco could be considered ‘literary’ SF, I suppose. Conrad is a fantastic world builder. Reading Nostromo makes you feel as though you have really visited a South American banana republic at the turn of the 20th century. Conrad’s Costaguano is both familiar and weirdly exotic. Most people think that Conrad must have spent considerable time knocking around South America to have such a great feel for the place — but that familiarity they detect is something of a fraud. Conrad only spent a very short time in South America, and his memories were decades old when he wrote Nostromo. Since there was never any such place as Costaguano, maybe Conrad belongs on the ‘fantasy’ bookshelf alongside Eco.

  30. Being the smallest of small presses (1 anthology on the way, still taking submissions at http://www.mysterionanthology.com), this is something I have been thinking about a lot. We concluded that it’s not worth a print run, when anyone who wants a paperback can get one through print on demand, so we’ll be mostly ebook.

    That said, pricing requires something of a balance. A friend of ours who runs a small press says that we need a price that is typical of anthologies in order to be taken seriously, but it’s higher than we originally planned. I’m convinced that a lot of pricing is based on those sorts of considerations. It’s the reason a lot of people are reluctant to buy any book that costs 99 cents, and some people feel the same way about $2.99–those are the minimum ebook prices, both overall and for the high royalty, so people sometimes conclude that its real value must be less than that.

  31. Anybody notice how many DVD rental stores are still vacant, and how fast they vanished? Giant chains with millions of dollars flying around, gone in an instant. Their business model is now reduced to print-on-demand vending machines at gas stations.

    I wonder if their upper management all loudly claimed ‘this internet streaming thing is a flash in the pan, it’ll never last!!!’ Meanwhile Netflix is eating their lunch.

    I see a parallel with the publishers. The difference is upper management at Blockbuster never went out of their way to insult their customers, that I am aware of.

    • The parallels, I think, are less than you make them out to be. Rental places were distributors; note that the movie companies are still going strong.
      What I suspect is going to happen is that bookstores that fail to diversify will fail, and most of the ones that survive will be used bookstores.
      The publishers will probably end up coming apart, but it will be for different reasons than Blockbuster and Movie Gallery. (I miss those, by the way.)

      • I don’t know, I think maybe the example is better than that. Consider that publishers don’t create the material, they just print it. Authors create the material.

        A movie takes hundreds of people and millions of dollars to make. A book takes one guy with a laptop. Distribution of an author’s work can amount to several years waiting for a publisher to pull their thumb out, or a download to Amazon.

        I note in passing that this year saw several large films fall flat at the box office, the panic in Hollywood is all over the trade papers. Movie companies are not doing all that well, and of course most media companies are shrinking. A quick look at their stock prices shows their health is not that good.

        Further signs of iceberg impact, Borders is dead. Barnes & Noble devotes more than half their floor space to -toys-. Meaning they can’t pay for that square footage selling books. Otherwise, the bookshelves would go to the ceiling and there would be zero toys. Retailers have thin margins, they have to scramble to make a buck.

        I’m pretty sure anybody who opened a bookstore in any North American city right now would steadily lose money, unless their rent was near-zero or they had a coffee bar in the back. Coffee makes money, books are decor.

        Finally, Sad Puppies is a peasant’s revolt against the publishing business. People are angry enough to spend money rubbing TOR’s nose in it’s mess. That’s a big deal. We collectively think that C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and Heinlein couldn’t get published today. That perception may or may not be 100% accurate, but that doesn’t really matter because that’s where we are at the emotional level.

        Therefore, I think maybe the Blockbuster model of collapse might not be that far off. If they’re dumb enough to spend money on adding warehouse space when entire massive national bookstore chains are going bankrupt, there’s a whole bunch more catastrophic stupidity going on below the water line. Engine room explosion imminent, break out the life preservers.

  32. Funny thing…

    To celebrate our second anniversary together in Texas, Deborah and I decided to wallow in the fleshpots of San Antonio: to wit, she went and spent a few bucks in JoAnn’s and I went and spent a few bucks in Barnes & Noble, then we did dinner and a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse.

    Here’s the funny part: Science fiction’s shelf space in bookstores is declining, we all know that. And the B&N I visit seems to be no exception. But when I went in there yesterday, they were having a competition between kids who had built their own robots.

    Think about that for a second: kids are building their own robots, but Barnes & Noble can’t sell science fiction…

    I can’t imagine clearer evidence there is something wrong with the product the “real” publishers are putting out…

  33. Pingback: Instapundit » Blog Archive » THE DEATH OF EBOOKS IS GREATLY EXAGGERATED: No, e-book sales are not falling, despite what publisher…

  34. Pingback: The more likely explanation for the fall in eBook sales « Quotulatiousness